Omphalos, the new release from Peter DiPhillips starts off drawing the listener in with workable quiet-music/spacemusic intentions, but comes apart a bit toward the end with his three-part “Tranquillamente” suite. The opener, “Witchifalls Ta,” does a decent job of laying down a somber, pensive air, chords pulsing and wavering against touches of dissonance. It establishes that DiPhillips is capable of creating emotional content. He ups the ante over the next two tracks, “Nica” and “Along the Mohawk Trail.” This is the strongest stretch on the disc. “Nica” forms itself into a down-tempo floater of a piece, laced through with spacey flavors and a laid-back beat. Cool washes stream past as DiPhillips plays with layers–adding, subtracting–allwith a well-guided hand. “Along the Mohawk Trail” goes darker than the rest of the work here, an amorphous gathering of sounds tied together in spots with tribal-tinged percussion. There’s a full journey here, and DiPhillips glides easily through its stages. The percussion comes and goes at the right time; the deepest parts of it fill with moving shadow, a little cave-exploration foreboding. (Things get very interesting, and a little hypnotic, some time around the 7-minute mark.) Throughout, the synth washes are thick and loaded with atmosphere. A very good ride. “Monk’s Bella Vue” twists its component sounds into a tight drone with neatly understated hints of sacred music. And then we get to the “Tranquillamente” pieces. I feel like they suffer from coming after such strong pieces because they feel less polished. The hesitant (on purpose, one assumes) structuring of the first piece and the relatively thin layering of sound comes off as a sort of amateurish noodling on a synth. The apparent lack of confidence and the sense of waiting for the piece to become something more wears quickly. The second part somewhat sheds that sense, but the pairing of bouncing chime tones over long chords can feel sort of wayward. The third piece works to salvage the suite; it’s more of a lulling ambient work with DiPhillips modulating the sound. Problem is, by this point my attention has been more or less lost. On top of this, although I am neither audiophile nor sound engineer, the sound on Omphalos seems muddy at times–and I’ve listened to it straight from CD as well as in an mp3 format.
Omphalos hits more than it misses. This is my first exposure of DiPhillips’ work, and tracks like “Nica” and “Along the Mohawk Trail” intrigue me enough to want to hear more. Definitely worth checking into.
Available from Happy Puppy.